A couple of questions from a Gumshoe newbie....

Hey all,

just a couple of questions...

First a nice easy one that I think I probably know the answer to. I understand how Spends work in Gumshoe, allowing Investigators to get
additional 'perks'. However, does a standard use of a skill use any
points from the pool associated with that skill.

My second question is a bit more fiddly.

Can interpersonal interactions that use investigative abilities fail or make things worse?

There are a whole bunch of interpersonal investigative skills such as
Flattery, Intimidation, Reassurance. Can an inappropriate use of one of
these skills 'fail' or make a situation worse, or would the
investigator instinctively know that now is not the right time to use
Flattery for example?

As an example, lets say we have a witness to a crime who is
petrified. They have a Core Clue that can be retrieved by the
investigators. However, I would like to portray this guy as someone who
hates to be intimidated and would rather fight back than be cowed by any
such attempts.

In this circumstance what do I do if an investigator tries to
intimidate them? Do I let them fail, making things worse (as long as the
core clue is still obtainable some other way of course), or do I assume
that their skill in Intimidation tells them this would not be a good
time to use it?

Thanks in advance for any help,



  • Wibbs,

    My understanding is that the point spends have much more to do with the narrative impact of the ability in that situation than the effort put into it.  So a standard use of the ability would definitely not require a spend if it led to a core clue.  A standard use of the ability could (but probably usually wouldn't) require a spend if used to find additional or clarifying information.  Usually, this spend would represent something more than usual, though.

    I'd say that Interpersonal abilities could absolutely lead to the Investigators needing to take another path, should another path be available.  I tend to write up a couple appropriate and inappropriate ability approaches for each NPC, but it really comes down to how the players portray their character's use of the ability.

    In your example, I think your solution is perfect.  I might allow a player to circumvent this with a spend (the core clue was available through other means, but the player really wanted to be intimidating, so the NPC's emotional defenses were essentially overwhelmed).
  • Hi,
    I play similarly to geelpete's answers.  Investigative skills don't require a spend; an Investigative spend does gain additional information (if I have it or can think of it).  
    And Interpersonal actions definitely can make things worse.  For example, using Intimidate on a suspect makes him clam up and refuse to give any information.  Overcoming this reluctance would subsequently require an Interpersonal spend (Respect, Flattery, maybe Bargain or Credit Rating to reflect payment of some kind). Without Intimidation, any of those other skills would have worked without a spend.  
    One difference is that I would (probably) never allow Intimidation to work even with spends.  The PCs might have to fight if they continued to try Intimidation.
    I also allow some skills to be used to determine the best approach to take with an NPC.  Anthropology, Assess Honesty, High Society, Oral History, Streetwise and others might be appropriate to provide some insight into a potential interlocutor.  
  • Core clues are free. Every other clue may have a price. Core clues will lead the investigators to some resolution for the case, but they might not see everything and they might miss some vital information. In my preferred ToC that often means death or insanity.
    For example: Core clues will lead you to the secret basement room where the killer hides. But if all you do is follow the core clues, you will arrive there without knowing that the killer is a freakishly strong immortal vampire and that you need a hawthorn stake to put it down. Oh, so that is what killed all those people. Case closed. Not that you'll live to tell anyone...

    As long as there is a way to solve the investigation (i.e. a linked chain of core clues leading to some resolution), it is perfectly okay if some alternative paths vanish during the story. In fact, I prefer it that way, because typical fictional crime investigations have dead ends, wrong theories and red herrings. Also, if anyone can just try every skill on the list in every scene, that gets old fast and the players will feel like rats in a glass labyrinth, trial-and-erroring their way out.

    So having that autopsy on the victim could mean that her deeply religious brother won't talk to you anymore. Doing the extensive library research might cost you the time to ask around the neighborhood. Intimidating a witness might spoil the clues you could get with Reassurance for you. A police officer will find it very suspicious if you try Flattery, then Cop Talk, then Bureaucracy.
    Also being successful in obtaining a clue does not mean that the situation can not escalate to something involving the Health, Firearms and Fleeing skills.
    Core clues provide an obvious way, not necessarily an ideal or harmless way...
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